Like a curious toddler with zig-zag scissors and a Barbie doll, I’ve always been reckless with my hairstyles. From my freshman fringe to my Peter Pan prom pixie, I’ve never been afraid to change the length or style of my hair. Until the day I lost total control: the day I had no idea I got my haircut.
It sounds like a nightmare, but it’s not. It’s my life.
The day started like any Tuesday. I woke up next to my three cats and a stranger named My Husband. He, as expected, didn’t notice the nine inches of hair missing from the head he has seen every morning for seventeen years. But even more terrifying than that—neither did I.
On my way to work, my usual neighborhood interactions were clouded by a sense of dread. Jonathan the barista gave me a squinty smile and said, “You changed something, what is it?” I felt a chill go up my spine but said nothing while shuffling over to the milk bar. He was right – I had changed something – but what? And who did it?
As I settled down at my desk, Tanya from accounting looked up from her usual shuffling of papers and released an unsettlingly giddy gasp. She jolted up from her favorite adjustable lumbar chair, and chirped a sentence that would shatter everything I thought I knew about myself:
“Wow, Liz! That’s a new look for you!”
My heart skipped a beat. Did that dream I had last night where all my teeth fell out actually happen? I licked my teeth, soaking in the relief of having most of my teeth still there. I am suddenly pulled into a memory of one day in eighth grade. Everyone said, “You look so great! What’s different?” but no one would tell me what was different. It took me years to figure out my orthodontist had painstakingly removed my braces that morning.
Why can’t we treat others with some small measure of kindness and explicitly identify the changes that we make to our own heads?
I was snapped out of my reverie by Tanya looking me in the eye and declaring: “You got a haircut!”
My heart stopped.
This Tanya was a detective. A super-sleuth with the keen eye to identify that even though I had made an appointment with my regular stylist, drove myself to the salon, and told her a long story about my mother’s horrific birthday party while intently watching half my ponytail fall to the floor, I didn’t know I got a haircut.
If it weren’t for Tanya in accounting, I may have lived the rest of life not knowing I had gotten a haircut. To this day, I am chilled by one thought: Where would I have been if she hadn’t said, “You got a haircut”? It’s impossible to express how grateful I am, and how close I came to not knowing.
Since what I like to refer now in my support group as, “the spontaneous asymmetrical bob incident,” I’ve gradually learned to trust my own instincts again. I no longer need a fleet of acquaintances to candidly announce my own actions until I can finally believe I was there to live them. Of course, I’ve had a few slip-ups along the way: It took me eight months to realize I was pregnant, even after I endured 12 very expensive trials of in-vitro fertilization. Thank the Lord my neighbor, Joyce, was in the mailroom one morning to valiantly shout, “Liz! You’re in labor!” without a congratulations or even a follow-up question. But that really helped me put the pieces together.
I cannot stress this enough: offhand borderline-rude observations from work acquaintances save lives. You might just need an empty affirmation of conspicuous external facts from an enthusiastic semi-stranger to truly know it for yourself. I can only wish that I did sooner.